Category Archives: dog breeds

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 5 – Supplements

The third rung of our ladder is Food & Supplements.  As promised, this post is dedicated exclusively to supplements (I discussed Food in part 4).  Brace yourself – this is another long post and I am not promising to cover the range of supplements available, either.  These are some that I have personal experience with and I will explain my rationale for using them so you understand my principles for supplement use.

Arthritis management diagram 3rd rung

Supplements are a huge industry in both human and animal care and they earn a lot of money for the manufacturers that sell them.  And for the most part, the industry is unregulated which means that, while we can buy them easily, there aren’t standards of manufacture and they can reach the shelves with little if any study as to their effectiveness.

That said, for many generations people had to rely on non-drug solutions to healthcare before there was such a thing as a pharmaceutical industry.  And the structure of clinical trials is a modern medicine concept.  I keep an open mind about natural remedies – and doing one’s homework is the best way to make good choices. (I have also found that the same people who claim that research paid for by manufacturers is dubious also endorse prescription dog foods that are also backed up by self-funded industry research – go figure!)

If you remember nothing else from this post, please remember these 4 key points:

  1. Supplements are not drugs.  You aren’t going to see an effect after a single dosage and most need time to build up in the system.  For this reason, they are solutions for the longer term and not a solution for a dog that is severely lame or in pain.
  2. Supplement for a reason.   This is explained  in more detail later.
  3. Implement one change at a time.  I see a lot of dog parents who are in crisis mode.  Their dog has had a fall, surgery or has experienced lameness and they throw everything but the kitchen sink at them at once.  How do you know what is working and what isn’t?
  4. Tell your vet what supplements you are using so they are on your dog’s medical records.  If your vet is going to prescribe medication, they should know everything your dog is eating and taking as supplements to be sure there are no adverse interactions.  If your vet doesn’t agree with you about using a supplement but on other grounds than ‘doing harm’, it’s still your choice as your dog’s guardian about whether or not to continue using them.
Let’s get the CBD thing out of the way first

CBD (cannabidiol) has only begun to be tested on animals.  But it is in lots of products and supplements – at last year’s Global Pet Expo and other trade shows – it was CBD that was all the rage.  A huge market with lots of money changing hands seemed to spring up overnight.

In New Zealand, “tetrahydrocannabinols, the chemicals in hemp which include THC, cannabidiol (CBD), and related compounds, and any preparation or plant containing them, are classed by the Ministry of Health as controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Under the ACVM Act, controlled drugs and anything containing them must only be given to or fed to animals after registration under the ACVM Act. When products are registered, MPI applies strict controls and conditions of sale and use.”  (Source:  Ministry of Primary Industries)

My natural health colleagues in the USA have expressed concern about CBD products and how they may interact with other medications that pets may be taking (compounded by the fact that many pet parents are reluctant to disclose to their vet that they are using a CBD product).  And others are concerned not so much by the CBD ingredient itself but because of the quality of the carriers and flavourings used in the CBD products.

I know there are CBD products being given to dogs in NZ on the quiet – clients have asked me about products they’ve seen in local health shops and ‘green expos’ and a rumour that some pet parents are making it themselves.

I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to CBD.  And I’m following the research with interest!

So earlier I said that we should supplement for a reason.  I knew Izzy was an ex-racer who would have experienced a lot of stress on her joints during her professional career.  So I started her almost immediately after adoption (around age 6) on glucosamine and chondroitin.  These were to support her cartilage matrix and she continues on them to this day.  My choice to start supplementation was based on her history and my assumption (rightly) that she would likely develop arthritis.

Glucosamine and chondroitin through studies have shown a chondroprotective effect.  Chondroprotectives are “specific compounds or chemicals that delay progressive joint space narrowing characteristic of arthritis and improve the biomechanics of articular joints by protecting chondrocytes.” 

I started Daisy on glucosamine and chondroitin at the magic age of 7 (that imaginary line that, when crossed, helps us generally to define dogs as being senior).  She also remained on them until she passed 3 weeks after her 14th birthday.

When I said that supplements weren’t drugs, it also means that you need to maintain the dosage for them to remain effective.  And if you stop or run out, then you can expect to have to re-start a program of loading to build them back up in the body again.

Another example of supplementing for a reason is when a dog has arthritis – and many dogs develop this condition (between 60% and 80% of dogs to be exact – according to different studies).      Arthritis causes inflammation in the joints.  Controlling the inflammation helps to control the pain.

Izzy also takes deer velvet and has done since she turned 7.   (I started Daisy on deer velvet very late in her life, as the product was new to me then back in 2013/14). There’s a great literature review out of Australia that talks about the different properties of deer velvet, for example.  In the words of Dr W Jean Dodds of Hemopet/Nutriscan, deer velvet “helps alleviate arthritic symptoms by rebuilding cartilage, improving joint fluid, increasing tissue and cellular healing times, and improving circulation.”  So I started Izzy on this when she was that much older, it seemed a good adjunct to her glucosamine and chondroitin particularly for the circulation effects and the growth factors that would help with any micro-tears in soft tissues.

Green lipped mussel extract is somewhat unique to New Zealand and the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown in studies to have an anti-inflammatory effect.  When Daisy’s lumbosacral disease was first confirmed via x-ray in 2011, she started on a high quality green-lipped mussel concentrate.  Izzy, with arthritis in her wrists and toes, has been taking green-lipped mussel since 2018, when she dislocated her toe.  The NSAIDs disagreed with her and so I felt that with her advancing arthritis in the toes, she needed consistent anti-inflammatory support.

I also use turmeric in Izzy’s food – she’s 11 now and I’ve been consistently using turmeric for about three months because it’s got anti-inflammatory effects and she seems to tolerate it on her stomach whereas we know from the times she has needed NSAIDs after surgeries that her stomach doesn’t cope.  I’m using a combination of dried turmeric powder and fresh turmeric when I cook for her and I have noticed an improvement in her mobility in conjunction with our regime for managing her corns.  (Her hydrotherapist noticed her enhanced mobility, too.)

With each of the supplements I’ve mentioned above, they were instituted one at a time and for a reason.   If I choose to stop a supplement to try something else, I will stop the first supplement for about 3 weeks before starting the new one.  That’s because I want to make one change at a time.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned supplement brands in this post.  That’s because my local market in New Zealand has different products than those of my readers elsewhere.  And while I have preferred products, I also aim to understand the client’s budget and recommend the highest quality product that they can afford.

And as you’ve reached the bottom of this post, you may also realize that I spend a significant portion of my household budget on Izzy’s care.  Supplements are just one aspect of her care and for a 75 day supply of her green lipped mussel, for example, I spend close to NZ$100.

Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 4 – Food

We’re going higher up the ladder this week to the third rung:  Food & Supplements. 

In many resources, food and supplements are talked about together because food is eaten and most supplements are, too.  I’m going to write about Food now, however, and save Supplements for the next post to keep the length of the post manageable and easier to read.  There’s still a lot I want to cover.

Arthritis management diagram 3rd rung

So in my last post about weight management, I mentioned that sometimes I ask my clients to simply reduce the food they are feeding by up to 1/3 per meal because a diet food is not always needed if the diet is balanced.  That advice was specifically addressing the need to lose weight.

In Part 3, I also included a diagram about body condition.  Dogs of all ages should be fed to body condition; the labels on dog food are a guide and not the Bible.  So, if a dog is gaining weight, then we may cut back on food a bit and help them reach an ideal weight again.  Sometimes, we end up cutting back too much and then we have to feed a little more.

This is where the ladder analogy helps us.  We can go up and down a ladder fairly easily.  And when managing our dog’s health, we have to be prepared to re-visit issues and change approaches accordingly.

Sometimes we go up the ladder and sometimes we go down.

Older dogs generally have a slower metabolism and combined with less physical activity because they are slowing down (with or without arthritis) –  they require less calories.

There are also other considerations for diets when your dog is older. 

For example, if your dog has been diagnosed with kidney disease, then a diet lower in protein is recommended because the kidneys process extra protein for removal in the  urine.  If the kidneys aren’t working well, we need to lessen the pressure on them.  If this is the case, your vet will probably recommend a commercial diet to meet those needs.

Protein is important for muscles – keeping them strong and helping them to repair themselves.  Proteins are a source of energy; they help keep the immune system strong, and have a role in creating enzymes and hormones.  They’re an essential part of the diet.

(When I started making my own dog treats for sale, I remember talking with a Board-certified veterinarian at the Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston.  She was of the view then that all older dogs should have reduced protein diets.  But in the intervening years, more research has shown that this is not the case.  A lesson for all of us.   As we gather more information through study and research, professional advice may change.)

In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), we understand that older animals don’t have the digestive energy that younger dogs do.  Therefore, protein sources should be highly digestible when you are managing an older dog.  This is a main reason why I like the homemade and topper approach to foods.  I use a good quality dry dog food, but I enhance it with many fresh ingredients.

A few sources of good protein toppers are:

  • Eggs (whole) –  I like to hard boil eggs and then slice the over the kibble before adding warm water
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sardines

I also cook my own toppers.

Toppers add palatability (taste) and because the dog’s sense of smell is much better than our own, I think the toppers add appeal through smell, too.

If a dog has an arthritis diagnosis, then “Joint Diet” foods are readily available and companies like Hill’s have undertaken feeding trials to prove their diets are balanced.  As part of the research into the product, the veterinary team observed a reduction in the clinical signs of arthritis with a subsequent reduction in the dosages of anti-inflammatory drugs that were required to manage the dog’s pain and arthritis symptoms.

That said, I have never fed a joint diet because I really dislike the ingredient panel in these highly processed foods.  I’ve always felt that if we are told to keep fresh things in our diet, then the same should go for our dogs. I can still use supplements and other modalities to manage arthritis and inflammatory pain.  I just don’t need to have a ‘complete solution in a bag.’  (This post is getting long – see why I chose to leave Supplements to their own post?)

Because digestion in an older dog is slower, if they have less physical activity such as recovery from a surgery or advancing arthritis, they can also become constipated from time to time.  Drugs like Tramadol are also constipating. (This happens in rest homes with older people, too.  An older person who lives their life in a wheelchair and unable to walk around much and on medication often finds that it is harder to get the bowels moving.)

More fibre combined with good hydration helps keep the bowels doing what they need to do (rid the body of wastes and toxins) and the best addition to food for fibre is steamed pumpkin.  I know that tinned or canned pumpkin is also very popular in the USA as well.

Parents need to watch what they are giving as treats, too.  Treats are food and add calories to the diet – but they also add variety and variety is the spice of life!  If an older dog has lost some teeth over the years, for example, harder treats may need to be avoided in favor of softer ones.  If we are focusing on hydration to help manage constipation, softer texture treats or those that can be soaked in water are a good idea.

Izzy with pigs ear

Izzy the greyhound with a pigs ear. These help to clean her teeth to some extent (although we brush her teeth every night, too). Treats add variety to the diet and because I source my pigs ears locally, I am more confident in their quality.

Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 3

In Part 2,  I introduced a ladder concept to explain that there were steps in managing an older dog, and particularly one that is likely to have arthritis.

This is what our ladder looks like now, with two rungs, because today we are talking about managing weight.

Arthritis management diagram with 2 rungs

Overweight pets are a first world problem.  We love our dogs, we use treats for training, and we keep using treats to show our love.  Many of us don’t measure (or ideally, weigh) our dog’s food at feeding time.  Portion sizes start to creep up.

And then our dog starts to slow down, not playing or running around as much.  They don’t need as many calories but we keep feeding them the same as we have always done.  So with less calories burned, the dog’s body adds fat placing more stress on joints that are arthritic because they now have to move more weight than they used to (or should).

As with any change in lifestyle, a vet check is always recommended before starting a weight loss program.  We don’t want to assume that weight is the only problem in an older dog.  (Kidney and liver function, for example, should be checked).

I advise my clients to weigh their dog as a starting point and it’s also helpful to take measurements such as the waistline line (in line with the knees) and a measurement behind the elbows.

I often ask my clients to simply reduce the food they are feeding by up to 1/3 per meal (requiring them also to measure or weigh up what a ‘normal’ feed has been).  A diet food is not always needed if they are already feeding a balanced diet.

Other tricks include scattering food around the garden or living room which requires the dog to forage for its food and, while doing that, they are getting some additional low impact exercise.  Snuffle mats, which I sell in my practice, are another slow feeding option.  Kongs are another.

Kobe with snuffle mat

Kobe the greyhound with a snuffle mat

Everyone in the household has to be on board with the weight loss program – sneaking treats just doesn’t help the dog reach its weight loss goal.

Regular weigh-ins and measurements will help you stay on track and be able to celebrate each weekly (or fortnightly) weight loss.  And we celebrate with some play, a tummy rub, massage or a car ride – definitely not food!

I use massage and acupressure to help my clients through weight loss.  Because if the dog is feeling less painful with endorphin release and muscles that are stretched and supple, they will move more.  And with increased movement brings an increase in calories burned.

I also become the dog’s private weight loss coach, and a sounding board for the family so we can remain positive when we have setbacks.

It becomes a happy cycle of more weight loss, happier dog and happier family.

Many parents just don’t realise that their dog is overweight.  Overweight dogs have become something of a normal occurrence in many communities.  A good rule of thumb is to lay your hands on either side of your dog’s rib cage.  Can you feel the ribs without pressing down?  If not, your dog is probably carrying some extra weight.

Charts like this one are also useful.  They are often on display in vet practices to help the veterinarian explain to clients about body scores and condition:

Layout 1

Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Scout: Super Bowl Ad Star

In the 2019 Super Bowl, Scout the Golden Retriever featured in an advertisement for WeatherTech and their PetComfort feeding system.

But this year, CEO David MacNeil  paid $6 million dollars for a 30-second ad that didn’t promote his business.  Rather, it featured Scout and the veterinary school in Wisconsin that saved his life.

In July 2019, Scout collapsed and was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer that formed in his heart.  Scout was treated at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and MacNeil decided to help them raise money for research by taking out the ad.

Here are both of Scout’s commercials:

 

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 2

According to statistics, one in every five dogs is affected by arthritis, or more specifically osteoarthritis.  It’s a disease that is progressive and is associated with a number of factors which result in degeneration of the joints.

In my opinion, the stats are probably a lot higher.  More than one in five.  And that’s because too many dog parents see the symptoms of arthritis but classify it as ‘normal slowing down with age’ and they don’t seek professional help until much later – if at all.   Arthritis can develop in young dogs – I’ve seen it in dogs between the ages of 1 and 2 –  but the odds certainly increase with age.  If a dog reaches the age of 7, then they have a 65% chance of developing arthritis.

So in this post, I want to introduce you to the ladder concept for managing dogs with arthritis.  There are various rungs to the ladder and we’re going to cover each one.  Each rung is a step up in terms of effort (and potentially cost) and, just like in real life, you can go up and down the ladder based on circumstances which can include progression of the disease.

Ladder diagram

The first rung is about identifying pain and discomfort in your dog.   Many owners expect their dog to whimper or cry out as the primary indicator that they are uncomfortable.  But that just isn’t true.  By the time a dog vocalises, chances are they have been experiencing discomfort for some time and have become very painful.

There are degrees of difference between discomfort and pain

Discomfort is tolerable.  People describing discomfort use words like lingering, annoying, or aching.

Pain is much more than discomfort.  Pain is intense.  It changes the way you do things or enjoy your day.  When people describe pain they choose words like burning, sharp, or shooting.

Discomfort tells us something is wrong and often helps us manage before the situation becomes painful.

Our dogs are non-verbal communicators.  We have to become experts at their non-verbal communication by being keen observers.

In late 2017, for example, I noticed a behavioural change in Izzy.  Over the course of about 10 days, it seemed that almost every time I looked over at her, she was licking her left carpus (wrist).  And so I took her to the vet and asked for x-rays.  These confirmed ”very minor arthritic changes” – so minor that we agreed a regular rubdown with an animal liniment would likely be sufficient rather than requiring pain medication.  Izzy was experiencing discomfort and not pain.

Changes can be subtle.  My intake questionnaire for new clients is many pages long and I ask questions about mobility and behaviour as well as personally observing the dog’s gait.  A reluctance to get out of bed in the morning may not be a sign of laziness, for example.  It could be that the dog is stiff after resting all night.

Other signs can include:

  • difficulty getting comfortable in bed
  • withdrawal from normal activities
  • snapping when touched
  • pressure sores on the elbows or other joints
  • lameness or changes in gait
  • scuffing of toe nails
  • pacing

The list goes on…

When we see someone every day (and this includes our pets), we often don’t pick up on small changes.  This is a main reason why asking for a professional’s assessment is a good thing to do.  They come into your situation with a fresh set of eyes.

Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 1

I promised a series on dog aging and care to explain that Izzy’s care started long before we introduced her pram (stroller).   Welcome to Part 1

For this series, I’ll be drawing on my experience as a dog parent with an aging dog as well as my 10+ years of professional experience in canine massage and rehabilitation.

Whenever I am asked about how I chose my profession, I explain that I had a muse.  Her name was Daisy.  An English Pointer who was neglected by her first family, Daisy entered my life at the age of 4 and left it at the age of 14 years and 3 weeks.

Daisy the English Pointer

Daisy, a sweet-natured and intelligent English Pointer, had many health problems over the course of her life. But we managed to get her to the age of 14+ which for a large-breed dog is a good life.

 

Izzy the greyhound

Izzy is my current canine companion. As I write this column in January 2020, she will be turning 11 in a few weeks. As an ex-racing greyhound, you can expect that Izzy’s body has seen some wear and tear and I will cover that in future posts.


For this introduction, let’s talk about time and age.  My mother, who passed away last year, used to say that, “no one I know is getting any  younger.”  The same is true of our dogs.  Aging is a fact of life.  It’s not a disease, it’s a life condition.

Most dog parents understand that their dogs don’t live as long as we do.  And you’ve probably seen charts like these before – but let’s review how a dog ages.  Smaller dogs tend to live longer, giant breed dogs have the shortest life expectancy.

I’ve included two charts because some of my readers go by weight in pounds, and others like my local clientele in New Zealand use kilograms.  Both charts have been derived by the work of Dr. Fred L. Metzger of Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, PA.

How old is your dog in poundsHow old is your dog in kgsSo I expect most of you have gone to find your dog’s human age on the chart.  That’s good; it’s how I start a conversation with one of my clients about their dog’s life status.

A more powerful use of these charts, however, is to consider time.  Because we age in our time, we tend to lose track of time in terms of our dog’s health.

Let’s say that we have a large breed dog who is 11 years old and he’s recently been to the vet for medication for the first time and the family has asked me to work with him because he’s reluctant to walk and doesn’t want to get into the car.

When we chat, the family tells me he has  probably been slowing down for ‘about a year.’  Today he is the equivalent of a 72 year-old man.  But his symptoms started when he was 10 and the human age of approximately 66.  So his family, although they clearly love him, waited 6 years to get professional help.

If your child was limping, would you wait 6 years to take them to the doctor? (I hope most of you say no.)

What I’d like each of you to do now is record your dog’s birthday and human year equivalent on your phone, wall calendar or diary – whatever you use.  If your dog was adopted and you don’t know their exact birth date, you can use their Gotcha Day instead.  Now, check out the chart and see how many human years will go by before their next birthday.

In the example above, it’s 6 years.

12 months/6  = 2 months

So if you were my client, I may ask you to enter a reminder message every two months in your diary and I’d give you a simple checklist of questions to review.  Just one tool that I use with some clients to help them understand their dog’s aging process and need to remain vigilant for signs of change.

Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

WSU study aims to prevent adverse drug reactions in dogs

If not identified before surgery, a rare genetic mutation could result in your dog being exposed to dangerously high levels of anesthetic agents.

Scientists at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine initially discovered the mutation in greyhounds and more recently in other common dog breeds.

The research group, a member of the Program in Individualized Medicine (PrIMe), published its findings in Scientific Reports.

Researchers on genetic mutation anesthetic study

Researchers Stephanie Martinez and Michael Court pose with their dogs Otis (left), Seamus (center), and Matilda (right). Matilda is a carrier of a mutation found by Martinez and Court, which results in less of the enzyme used to break down many popular anesthetics.

For years, veterinarians have known that some greyhounds struggle to break down certain drugs, which results in potentially life-threatening and prolonged recovery periods following anesthesia. The previously unknown genetic mutation that the WSU researchers uncovered in greyhounds causes less of CYP2B11, the enzyme that breaks down these drugs, to be made.

Not surprisingly, the mutation was also found in several other dog breeds that are closely related to the greyhound including borzoi, Italian greyhound, whippet, and Scottish deerhound.

However, when the research team extended their survey to more than 60 other breeds, using donated samples from the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital DNA Bank, they were surprised by what they found.

According to the study, funded by the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation, some popular dog breeds, including golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers, may also struggle to break down the commonly used anesthetics, midazolam, ketamine, and propofol.

“We started with a condition we thought was specific to greyhounds and affected a relatively small number of dogs,” said Stephanie Martinez, postdoctoral research associate and lead author on the study. “It now appears that there could be a lot more dogs affected by this mutation—dogs from breeds that we wouldn’t have expected.”

The study found about one in 50 golden retrievers and one in 300 Labrador retrievers may have low amounts of CYP2B11. According to the American Kennel Club, Labrador retrievers are the most popular breed of dog in the U.S., closely followed by golden retrievers, ranked third.

Even mixed-breed dogs were not spared; although the prevalence was much lower at only one in 3,000 dogs.

“While the mutation is not that common in most breeds—outside of greyhounds and other related breeds—because some of these other breeds are so popular, a relatively large number of dogs in this country could be affected.” Martinez said.

Michael Court, the study principal investigator and veterinary anesthesiologist who began studying slow anesthetic drug breakdown in greyhounds over 20 years ago, said, “Although we have developed special anesthesia protocols that work very safely in greyhounds—the nagging question was—should we be using these same protocols in other dog breeds?”

Court and Martinez are now moving forward to create a simple cheek swab test that could be used by dog owners and their veterinarians to detect the mutation and determine an individual dog’s sensitivity to the problematic anesthetic drugs.

“We also suspect that dogs with the mutation may have trouble breaking down drugs—other than those used in anesthesia.” Court said. “The challenge now is to provide accurate advice to veterinarians on what drugs and drug dosages should be used in affected patients.”

The research team is currently seeking volunteer golden retrievers and greyhounds to participate in a one‑day study at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital to continue their study of drug breakdown in these dog breeds.

Those who are interested in having their golden retriever or greyhound participate in the study can contact courtlab@vetmed.wsu.edu for more information.

Source:  Washington State University media release